Labor Day provides an appropriate occasion to prepare a barbecue feast, watch television from our favorite lounging chairs, catch up on chores, take a hike, go camping or embark upon a leisurely scenic drive.
The holiday also presents an ideal occasion to explore employment, labor, wages and cost of living as they pertain to Park County residents and Coloradans as a whole.
A wealth of updated information will soon be available with the completion of the ongoing census, but statistical information currently at hand should suffice to present an accurate snapshot of Labor Day-related topics both locally and statewide.
How much are we working?
The good people of Colorado work an average of 43.3 hours per week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That ranks 10th-highest among all states, and a whopping 8.8 hours ahead of the 34.5-hour national average.
Just for grins, it is interesting to note that residents of Mexico work the most hours per week on average of any country in the world at 43.2 hours, one-tenth less than the average Coloradan.
Based on these numbers, any economic strife felt by Coloradans is generally not the result of too few hours worked. Comparatively speaking, both nationally and internationally, Colorado laborers have nothing for which to apologize in terms of average hours worked on a weekly basis.
In Park County specifically, according to TownCharts, the average workweek was 40.3 hours in 2019.
How much are we making?
According to the Park County website, the average annual wage in 2016 for Park County individuals was $34,625.
The average annual household income in 2016, according to that same source, was $64,229.
The salaries of Park County residents and households are similar to those statewide. In 2018, according to www.census.gov, the median average annual income per household was $68,811, and the average per capita annual income for individuals was $36,415.
One eye-opening footnote regarding Park County employment is that in 2016, 85 percent of the workforce commuted to locations outside the county for work.
The largest in-county employer in 2016 was educational services, which employed 373 of the county’s 9,470-member workforce. The average annual income for those working in educational services at that time was $25,896.
How much are we spending?
Coloradans are working more hours and making more money than most Americans, ranking 10th and 11th nationally in each of those categories.
But here’s the rub.
According to www.businesessinsider.com, the median sales price for a home in Colorado is $428,364. That ranks as the sixth-highest median sales price for homes in the nation, trailing only Washington, Massachusetts, California, District of Columbia and Hawaii.
The median home value in the United States is about $248,857. So in order to buy a home in Colorado, it costs about $179,507 more than that of median home values nationwide.
The median price for homes in Park County is $362,426, according to the Zillow Home Value Index.
The purchase of an average home in Park County would require about $36,242 down, and about $1,300 per month over 30 years.
Needless to say, an individual income of the Park County average of $34,625 would make buying an average home of $362,426 somewhat challenging.
Even a household with two full-time wage earners in the field of educational services, for example, would be committing almost a third of its annual income on mortgage payments. That is, if they somehow managed to obtain almost one year of combined salaries for a 10 percent down payment to begin with.
How about rentals?
The average monthly rental cost for houses in Park County is $1,500. Over a 12-month period, a renter would pay $18,000, which is far more than half the annual average Park County income of $34,625.
Experts recommend that one’s monthly mortgage or rental payments not exceed 33 percent of one’s monthly income. Obviously, the average income in Park County falls well short in terms of covering average rent or mortgage rates.
How much do we need?
According to data from HowMuch.net, in order to comfortably afford to live in any city in Colorado, one has to earn $100,200 yearly salary. This works out to earning anywhere between $6,000-8,300 per month.
According to an article at www.hashtagcoloradolife.com, it costs $4,164.68 per month to live in Colorado when paying rent or a mortgage.
That’s a much more conservative figure, but it still amounts to about $15,351 more than the average individual income of a Colorado resident.
This does not, however, include expenses such as car loans or other debts aside from owning a home. With those additional expenses included, the “need to earn” target creeps back up into the $100,000-range.
As a result of extensive research, the following two-pronged conclusion seems fairly evident:
1. Many of us are not making a living wage sufficient to live here.
2. There are more appealing ways to spend Labor Day than doing research.